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She Matters: A Life in Friendships Hardcover – January 8, 2013

2.8 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Sonnenberg follows her harrowing memoir of her dysfunctional mother, Her Last Death (2008), with this equally frank assessment of female friendships. Perhaps because she suffered so much neglect at her mother’s hands, Sonnenberg looked to her female friends to provide recognition and nurturing at each of the key stages in her life. In grade school and college, as a newlywed and then a young mother, and during her parents’ deaths, she avidly sought out sustenance from her friends to carry her through. There are some stunning moments of connection here: one college acquaintance is unafraid of Sonnenberg’s staggering grief after her father’s death and steps in to both mourn with and comfort her during an extremely stressful period. There are also many brutally candid snapshots of female friendships gone awry, as some were put off by Sonnenberg’s voracious need, maintaining that friendship is a two-way street. What comes through clearly, though, are the author’s unwavering search for connection and her fearlessness in exposing both the highs and lows of the process. Women will find plenty to relate to here. --Joanne Wilkinson

Review

“In her stunning second memoir, a collection of linked essays, Sonnenberg finds universal truths in her experiences of female friendship.” (Meredith Maran People (4-star review))

She Matters is both a remembrance of vital friendships as well as a deeply absorbing portrait of the author herself…There are beautiful moments documented here…but ultimately She Matters is a deeply affecting ode to the ones who got away.” (Mythili Rao The Daily Beast)

She Matters lingers with you, inviting you to construct a patchwork quilt of your own life and salute the many women who helped you along the way.” (Susan Chira The New York Times Book Review)

“Sonnenberg is a gifted literary stylist with a stunning ability to write sentences that read like beautiful traps…She Matters artfully reveals the depth and gravity of love between women as they make sense of the changing and often treacherous emotional and logistical terrain of their forward-moving lives.” (Emily Rapp The Boston Globe)

“I read She Matters with such a keen sense of recognition, seeing myself (and my own mistakes and victories) repeated in so many forms through the female friendships of her own that Sonnenberg examines so eloquently…Like all of us, I want to do better. I think (hope) this book can help.” (Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed)

“I was dazzled by this wise and intimate memoir about female friendship. Sonnenberg writes incredible sentences: precise, musical, surprising and insightful…Sonnenberg’s engrossing stories of the highs and lows of her various friendships with women, made me feel newly grateful for all the crucial and complex women in my own life…Everyone should read this book.” (Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles)

“Sonnenberg, who’s aware of her passions and ambivalences, and doesn’t hide from them, made me think about what a friendship is, anyway…She’s written something that interests, exhausts, moves, perplexes, impresses and yes, matters.” (Meg Wolitzer NPR’s “All Things Considered”)

She Matters is a dark and intriguing piece of writing…rewarding…rich…[Sonnenberg’s] honesty has helped and will help me be more honest with myself within (and in regard to) friendships.” (Mary Pols The San Francisco Chronicle)

“Susanna Sonnenberg’s book reminds us how profoundly we’re affected by our friendships….You’ll want to share this with, yes, a friend.” (Parade)

“Sonnenberg is a beautiful writer…In this gallery of friendships, the portrait of each woman is so well drawn we grasp their significance and savor the intimacy.” (Sherryl Connelly New York Daily News)

“[Sonnenberg’s] vivid prose is confessional and precise…Sonnenberg’s intensity might be rough on friendships, but it makes for charged storytelling.” (Jenny Shank The Dallas Morning News)

“These are the stories of real women. Sonnenberg’s hard-core honesty, sharp detail and lovely prose make this a collection worth passing on to a friend.” (Rochelle Olson Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“Susanna Sonnenberg’s She Matters is a cause for celebration…The book’s honesty, eloquence, laugh-out-loud humor, finely wrought prose and magnificent scope will keep readers eagerly turning the pages…For readers who welcome a complex perspective beautifully rendered in writing, this book is not to be missed.” (Kelly Blewett BookPage)

“It is one thing to talk about the value and importance of friendships between women and another thing entirely to offer up one’s own friendships—the successes, the failures, the warmth, and the wrongdoing—by way of example and exploration To do the latter requires guts, candor, and a willingness to expose one’s own weaknesses and mistakes. Sonnenberg rises to the challenge beautifully and with remarkable grace in She Matters.” (Rebecca Joines Schinsky BookRiot)

“Sonnenberg brings her considerable talent, unflinching eye, and electrifying prose to the topic of female friendship.” (BookTrib)

“Rarely does someone write a book about friendship between women that women can relate to the way they can relate to Sonnenberg’s She Matters.” (Moves magazine)

“With heart-rending precision, Sonnenberg offers an eloquent narrative that not only exposes but embraces the fraught nature of women's relationships with each other.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Sonnenberg’s strikingly honest depictions of tumultuous female alliances and confessions about friendships are both moving and relatable; her depth of reflection and incandescent prose marks this exceptional memoir as a must-read to share among friends.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

"With remarkable candor, wit, and wisdom, Susanna Sonnenberg fearlessly examines her female friendships since childhood, brilliantly articulating the ways each sustained, sometimes devastated and ultimately defined her. She Matters: A Life in Friendships is a dazzling, poetic love letter to what women share, an unforgettable memoir you'll immediately want to pass along to friends." (Kate Walbert, author of A Short History of Women)

She Matters is so finely nuanced, so joyously serious, so wildly playful—to live with it, page by page, is a deep pleasure. Sonnenberg is also so willing to push below the surface of what we call “friendship” (a surface, alas, most of us are willing to exist upon). Near the end, when we encounter the phrase “A perfect thing from dread pain,” we recognize that is what we have in our hands—a perfect thing.” (Nick Flynn, author of The Reenactments)

“Sonnenberg dances close to the fire on every page, unmasking female friendship as a liberating, dangerous and rigorous art. She Matters renders the messy self with gorgeous clarity. It's the truest, most human book I’ve read all year - generous, hilarious, ecstatic and profound.” (Carolyn Cooke, author of Daughters of the Revolution)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (January 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439190585
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439190586
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #912,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
YIKES!! I thought this would be a great book about female friendships. Unfortunately, it was all about the author's multiple needs. I'm not sure there are enough friends in the world to fill the void the author seems to need filled. To be fair, there were bursts of good writing in the book. However it was difficult to get beyond the cadre of friends who all appeard to have the lifeblood sucked out of them in the name of "friendship". One has to wonder what the females profiled think about the author's assessment. Many sounded like they had the patience of Job and were kind beyond belief. I would guess they have their own tales to tell! I would not recommend the book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
All of the author's relationships seemed the same...high expectations fading away to the reality of human flaws and disappointments. As a reader I wanted her to figure out that you can only expect so much from friends.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book as an Advanced Reader's Copy and have had to wait months to comment. I am delighted to see it getting some great reviews as it comes out to the world today. There is so much to admire here. It's unlike any memoir I've read, a story of one life told through the memoirist's examination of her relationship to others. Full of insight into both herself and the nature of friendships, SHE MATTERS feels, like the best memoirs, much bigger in scope than the individual events it takes up. It's also beautifully written, like all of this writer's work, with an unflinching eye toward her own complexities, even when they are difficult or potentially shameful. Were that every memoir as honest, bracing, well-crafted, and nuanced as this one. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like the author, I was born in 1965, went to summer camp, boarding school, lived with a French family and had many roommates and friends throughout childhood, college and working years. Like the author, I am a mother and shared and continue to share friendships through playgroups and postpartum, toddler years and birthday parties. I do not, however, think that makes a book for me...or her. It seemed very self-indulgent to describe and reveal personal, intimate details of all of these friendships. I think the idea was that others can see themselves in the specifics she lays out but, by the end, I really started not to care (especially by the time we got to Flora, the masseuse). I think she has some lovely images and turns of phrase but I thought I was going to run out and buy this book for all of my close female friends. Alas, I am not.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Given the fantastic reviews this book received, I was ultimately disappointed. On the positive end, Sonnenberg has a way with words, and every once in a while she captures a moment or turn of phrase that is memorable. However, the individual stories of each of the failed female friendships are told in a superficial and overly predictable fashion, showcasing a confused sexuality and sense of self. The disjointed presentation creates a confusing timeline, and other than the fact that Sonnenberg cannot understand why each of these relationships stop working, it becomes tedious and depressing. While I admire Sonnenberg for her courage in exposing the more vulnerable aspects of her life, I had a hard time finishing the book, and was left with the hope that if even 50% of the facts of the stories are true, that the author is getting therapy.
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Format: Hardcover
Sonnenberg's recollection of friendships she has shared, past and present, is blatantly honest and humorous. She uses vivid colors that saturate her canvas as she paints a picture we probably have all seen before whether we'd like to admit it or not. If you look up the word "friend" in the dictionary, it provides several definitions. Each one perfectly fitting, depending on which friend one may be referring to of course. One defines a "friend" as a member of the same nation or party. Now, personally, I consider some of my co-workers friends just because we share the same office, a nation. But, I can recall quite a few harrowing days that I know I wouldn't dare reach out to them for advice or looking for a shoulder to cry on. Another describes "friend" as a person who is on good terms with one another, one who is not hostile. The author has told a couple of stories where she is on good terms witha friend, but she described them to be people who are almost the complete opposite of hostile.

In this memoir, she goes on to explain that throughout life, we all need friends as we grow. Whether we actually want them, or have time for them, the need is still in abundance. Sometimes pals stick around for a lot longer than we expected, and some of the times they vanish before we even realize they've been drifting apart. Either way, Sonnenberg has penned the truth and perhaps will open readers' eyes a little wider to recognizing that it's more important for ourselves to be a chum, rather than depend on another.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Totally disliked the format and writing style. Nothing seemed to be truly developed. Friendships all seemed superficial from the author's point of view. Still do not understand how these friendships mattered to her at all in the deepest sense of friendship.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was disappointed in this book. I expected a celebration of the unique aspects of women's friendships. Instead, this is the story of a self-centered, materialistic, personality-disordered woman who manages to drive away almost all of her friends. I will give the author credit for being so candid. However, because of her neediness and relative lack of
empathy, she seems to miss the depth and meaningfulness of true friendships. Maybe the author needs to quit complaining about her mother and look at her own behavior.
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